The Visit - coping with bereavement

'The Visit' written in green over a photo taken by David on a coastline with the sun on the water.

Photo taken by David

We are back today with the 4th volume of our bereavement series. This series aims to shine a light on some important topics and key experiences that people may go through when they have lost a loved one to cancer.

We began our bereavement series with the aim to normalise discussions around death, dying, and what comes after. Even though these kinds of discussions can be incredibly difficult, talking more openly about these experiences can help patients and loved ones find the right support to suit them in end of life and throughout bereavements.

Grief, and what you may go through after someone close to you has passed away, can be a really difficult topic to talk about. It can be especially difficult if you have been recently bereaved, but by sharing experiences on the Community, and talking with others who may also be grieving, some people find they are supporting one another through what can be a very difficult time.

Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no wrong or right way to feel. Knowing what support is out there and finding the help you may need is the most important thing.

We also have our Community Champion David, known on the site as DaveyBo, back with us today to share his thoughts and experiences. David supports members in our ‘Bereaved family and friends’ and ‘Bereaved spouses and partners’ groups. 

David is here today sharing his experience of visiting a mortuary, which highlights the great care and respect taken in treating patients once they have passed away.

If you feel you might find it upsetting to read about David’s experience of being shown round a mortuary, you may find the below difficult to read. You may find it helpful instead to read one of the other blogs in our bereavement series so far.

Bereavement in the media – coping with grief
Coping with anniversaries – Bereavement support
Looking after you – coping with a recent bereavement

Remember Macmillan is here to support you and you can call our Support Line 7 days a week 8am-8pm for support on freephone 0808 808 00 00. You can also live chat with our teams during these hours via our live webchat facility.

The visit

“A few years ago, I was asked by my local Macmillan co-ordinator if I would like to go on a learning course with a difference.  It would not lead to any qualification but hopefully give some information which would be helpful as a Macmillan volunteer.  I said that I would do the course.

I went to a large hospital in the city centre to attend the course which was to visit and learn about the mortuary.  I was a bit apprehensive at first but was assured that it would be okay and that there were no recent admissions.  First thing we were told was that if someone dies in another hospital, they are brought to this one for storage unless the relatives say otherwise i.e., have the body at home. 

 “I was a bit apprehensive at first but was assured that it would be okay”

The first room was large with several tables. This is where any post-mortems were carried out. There was a room specially laid out for anyone from the Islamic faith so that families could come in and wash and prepare their loved ones’ bodies themselves. There was also a room made to look like a bedroom and a rocking cot with lace curtains for babies.’
The purpose was to make parents feel as though their child was in their own room at home and therefore could be sleeping peacefully.

“The purpose was to make parents feel as though their child was in their own room at home and therefore could be sleeping peacefully.”

All in all, it was actually interesting to learn what happens and how so much thought and care goes into looking after those who have passed – they, and their relatives, are treated with respect at all times.  It takes someone very special to work in these places so that they show so much compassion to families. 

“So much thought and care goes into looking after those who have passed – they and their relatives and treated with the utmost respect at all times”

Many people may not be aware of the services available at a mortuary. We were shown around by one of the technicians who was quietly spoken and gave the impression of being very understanding and caring towards all visitors.  I think this kind of personality is a prerequisite for the job.  He explained before we entered that there were no procedures currently underway so that we would not have to witness anything. 

“Afterwards I felt very quiet and calm which was caused by the understanding of what happens and the quiet, peacefulness of the department.”

Afterwards I felt very quiet and calm which was caused by the understanding of what happens and the quiet, peacefulness of the department. I also would be able to pass this knowledge on to anyone requiring support to let them know their loved one was being taken care of.

“I also would be able to pass this knowledge on to anyone requiring support to let them know their loved one was being taken care of.”

We want to thank David for sharing his words and thoughts with us today on what can be a difficult but important topic. It is clear from David’s experience that the care and compassion that patients and families can find at what is often the most difficult time in their life is an important part of the service that mortuaries provide.

If you have been bereaved, there is support out there for you and there are lots of organisations and charities that can help. Here at Macmillan we are here to support anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer. Whether you would find it beneficial to speak to our dedicated teams on our Support Line, or access the Community for peer support 24/7, finding the right support for you is the most important thing.

Below are some resources for support:

- ‘Bereaved spouses and partners’ group
'Bereaved family and friends’ group
Macmillan Support Line
After someone dies – coping with bereavement
Cruse bereavement care
Ataloss.org
- Marie Curie talk about grief and loss   

If you have any questions or concerns about finding the right support for you, you can email the Community team at community@macmillan.org.uk and we will aim to get back in touch within 2 working days.

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